The two Monterrey-based clubs are at it again. After just three matches in this Clausura 2023 season, Tigres and Rayados find themselves in 1st and T-2nd, respectively, and appear to be poised for another top of the table run. Both are expected to finish within the top 4 (as usual), guaranteeing them a spot in the QF, and most importantly, avoiding that direct elimination Repechaje match.
After a subpar Copa por México preseason tournament, much doubt surrounded Diego Cocca and whether or not he’d be able to help this club regain its elite status. Well, it’s only been three games so far, but he appears to be well on track to accomplishing that, after crushing Santos 3-0 in the TSM Corona in Week 1, to crushing current champs Pachuca 4-1 in Week 2. One can also make a case for their tough match in Tijuana this past Friday in which they managed to split points. 2W, 1D, 0L - 8 GF, 2 GC - 7 points - and most importantly, 1st overall. Not a bad start at all for Cocca if you ask me.
To be honest, the chances they continue to soar over the league are very high considering their upcoming matches; vs. San Luis, at Cruz Azul, vs. Pumas, vs. FC Juárez, at Atlas, vs. Chivas, at Necaxa. All of those clubs are going through rough patches, and despite a couple “challenging” visits, it’s nothing Gignac and company can’t handle or haven’t overcome so many times before. Now granted, I don’t expect them to win every single match, but I do see them atop the table once they’re through with that portion, as this more defensive / orderly team version Cocca has reinstalled clearly plays right into these players’ wheelhouses.
Rayados de Monterrey
In terms of what Vucetich has managed with Rayados, an opening 0-1 loss to Chivas headlined Week 1. In all honesty, Monterrey’s dominance that match deserved at least a couple goals by the time the halftime whistle blew. Their inability to score on their immense number of chances reigned in this one and was the main catalyst for their loss. But they managed to quickly turn things around in Week 2, putting 3 on the board in the Azteca against Cruz Azul, and repeating that performance last weekend at home against Atlético de San Luis. A record of 2W, 0D, 1L with 6 goals scored in their last two matches, along with a 4-way tie for second place with Pachuca, Pumas, and Santos is what they have to show for it. No scrub of a start for Rayados - or for any team for that matter.
Considering what lies ahead for Rayados, they might not fare as well as I expect Tigres to through that same period, considering they do play Puebla, Toluca, and León - all three much tougher clubs than Tigres’ rivals in that span. Nevertheless, this team has awoken on offense and has shown but a glimpse of their true potential over the past couple matches. If they keep up their good aim and continue putting up 3 spots on the board, they will be extremely difficult to keep pace with. I obviously don’t expect them to score 3 times every match, but this offense can for sure carry the team to important places if they’re on their game.
What worries me about Vucetich and company, however, is the fact they continue to lose focus during certain periods of every match, and appear to eventually float around with no response or intensity - even - once they’ve conceded control of the ball to their opposition. Even in the San Luis match, Atleti really started to approach Andrada’s goal in threatening fashion over the final 20 minutes and could’ve made things much more interesting had another one gone in. All of that being said, this club’s elite talent makes them a title contender every season no matter what.
League leading goalscorers
Even in the golden boot category, these two teams are a step ahead after three weeks. The league leader is Rayados’ Funes Mori with 4 scores. However, he’s followed closely by Tigres’ Luis Quiñones and André-Pierre Gignac with 3 apiece. Not to mention, the UANL’s newest addition, last season’s golden boot winner Nico Ibáñez.
All minor details set aside - and let’s face it, all these clubs go through a certain rough patch every now and again; it’s what happens when you’re not a top club in one of the top European leagues - the word that best fits these two clubs is consistency. Along with América, they’re by far the three clubs that have maintained a level of excellence that sets them apart every single season, despite the rough patches aforementioned. But they never fail to field overall good, high quality teams, and consistently compete for top seeding, not to mention the title. But most importantly, they continue to set the standard for all other Liga MX clubs, whether they like to admit it or not.